DARK ANGEL / I COME IN PEACE. Solid B-movie science fiction thriller
What a movie!
I was afraid of this return after years; just a few days earlier, I watched Showdown in Little Tokyo (which, to put it mildly, doesn’t entertain as it did years ago), and I was convinced that a story about an extraterrestrial drug dealer who comes to Earth to harvest narcotics directly from human brains couldn’t be good. However, what a joyful surprise it turned out to be. Sure, there’s no denying that the film is awesome mainly by VHS and B-movie standards, but it’s still a piece of decent entertainment, known in the USA under the title I Come in Peace and released under the title Dark Angel in the rest of the world.
The matter is simple: after Dolph Lundgren had played a Russian a few times, defeated Skeletor, and lived in the sewers while taking down local gangsters, he decided to join the police (under a false name, as Jack Caine) to protect and serve society. Thanks, Dolph – you’re awesome. Unfortunately, in Dark Angel / I Come in Peace on one mission, his buddy gets fatally lead-poisoned, which leads to Caine getting chewed out by his boss – because, one, a dead cop means a lot of paperwork, and two, a ton of heroin disappeared from the police evidence room, and of course, it’s all the Swede’s fault. As we all know, such a situation can only lead to one thing, Caine has to take matters into his big hands, avenge his friend’s death, kill the bad guys, save the good ones, and, of course, romance the friendly coroner’s clerk. The guy senses that something’s fishy because, apart from his buddy, several other drug users have died – someone might think it’s just a failed gang deal. However, Lundgren isn’t easily fooled and knows that there’s more to this catastrophe than just a failed drug deal. The FBI also catches wind of the case and assigns the typical desk-bound, racially prejudiced file-checker to collaborate with the Swede.
As we all know, nothing fuels action like a classic conflict between mismatched cops, so there’s plenty of fun in Dark Angel / I Come in Peace. General mistrust, lots of unknowns, and increasing tension between the characters – I’m surprised at how well the director handled it all. The situation goes from bad to worse when bodies start turning up in the city, victims of the “Golden Shot” heroin overdose. There wouldn’t be anything strange about it if it weren’t for the fact that these aren’t just junkies, but random citizens turning up dead. Dolph is worried, Dolph is pissed, and Dolph knows someone needs to get a serious a**-kicking – but who? It quickly becomes apparent that extraterrestrial forces must be involved – of course! So Dolph knows who but not how… because an alien skull-crusher isn’t your typical thug, and a regular kick in the face won’t cut it.
Since we’re talking about skulls, the idea of extracting a super valuable drug straight from human brains is so brilliant in Dark Angel / I Come in Peace that I’m at a loss for words, and Baxley (by the way, this guy has two other VHS-era cult classics under his belt, Action Jackson and Stone Cold) doesn’t spare anyone: whether it’s a gang member, a random guy in a store, or the charming Victoria’s Secret-clad female mechanic, it doesn’t matter – everyone’s in for a headshot. But what’s most important is how brilliantly it’s shown! Stab, gunshot to the chest, and heroin injection, then a spike to the skull for extracting endorphins, and it’s all served up with excellent directorial finesse – we only see the gruesome skull-spiking during the third attack. In the first victim’s case, there’s a cut at the crucial moment, with the second victim, we only hear what’s happening, and it’s only during the attack on the lady in the workshop that we get to see the whole procedure. The sight of a spike piercing the skull with the simultaneous sound of the frontal bone cracking has been with me for over twenty years and will always have a special place in my heart. Great job all around.
The cast of Dark Angel / I Come in Peace is quite good. Brian Benben, playing Dolph’s partner, is annoying when he needs to be and even funny when the script demands it. The female coroner is more than cute, and Matthias “I come in peace” Hues plays the alien drug dealer with the finesse of a Shakespearean actor. And then there’s Dolph, who is just Dolph, and I don’t need to say more. His character is, of course, sketched out from a template, but with an unexpected twist – on one hand, he’s a total badass cop (worn jeans, leather jacket, a gun at his belt, stubble, and a matte black car), and on the other, he’s an art connoisseur who spends his evenings in an elegant apartment with a glass of exquisite Merlot in hand. Such a simple move from the director, and yet how much freshness and depth can be added to a character pushed to the limit, a weary cop on a collision course with the entire criminal underworld. Who knows, if a sequel of Dark Angel / I Come in Peace had been made, we might have found out that Caine also enjoys French banquets, romantic sunsets, and occasional literary evenings. But there’s no point in speculating, because although a touch of culture has never killed anyone, first you have to deal with a spoiled cosmic psycho.
So let’s put character psychology aside for now, it’s time for a chase, a shootout, and some serious destruction of half the city. Yes, there’s plenty of good action in the film, and despite the limited budget, everything is technically quite solid. Impressive explosions with impressive pyrotechnics, a few good firefights, some kicks and solid brawling (the fast-paced action in the office is great), all leading to the obvious climax in some old abandoned factory. The entire ’80s summed up – finishing a movie without a solo in an abandoned factory/warehouse/steel mill is like going to Vietnam and not getting food poisoning.
In short, it’s a piece of good cinematic craftsmanship, to be watched with family, friends over a beer, and considering how tastefully the director serves up the romantic subplot, you could even say it’s an excellent movie for a date – especially a first one. Let the woman know what kind of guy she’s dealing with. I recommend it!